Checklist For Moving Abroad: A Handy Guide For Moving To A New Country

I have now had two big moves abroad. I moved from the UK to the US and 4 years later, I moved back to the UK again. Moving abroad is BIG. There is so much to do and think about and at times the checklist of things to do can feel like a mile long. In this post, I share my checklist for moving abroad and some of the things you should consider before a big move overseas!

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Moving Abroad Checklist

Obviously everyone’s situation is different, but this can be used as a guide! I haven’t included anything involved with selling or buying houses. I didn’t have to do this, so I wouldn’t have a clue what needs to be done! I also don’t have any pets or kids, so this was something else I didn’t need to consider when moving abroad.

Before You Move

Visas

Having the right visa is a huge factor when it comes to moving abroad. The ball needs to start rolling pretty far in advance. When I first moved to the US, I needed a visa. I started the visa process in September 2015 and it wasn’t approved until July 2016, almost a full year later.

Depending on the country, there may be several different visa options. Maybe you are moving on a work visa, maybe you are moving on a more family based visa. For me, before going through the process I had the choice of the K1 (fiancé) or the CR1 (spouse) visa. I opted for the CR1, but that’s a whole other post…in fact I have hundreds of posts about the visa process, which you can find here: US visa resources.

You’ll have to wait for approvals and have all the paperwork in order before you can move.

When I returned to the UK, as I still had my UK passport and I’m a UK citizen from birth, so I didn’t need a visa. However before you leave, if you are moving from a country you have had a visa for, there may be some options before you ‘close all doors’. For the US, there were potentially re-entry permits I could have applied for, or going one step further, I had clocked enough years to apply for citizenship. I decided not to go down the citizenship route as I was pretty sure I wouldn’t want to return to live in the US again.

Work

Many people become expats for work, so this may not be something you have to think about. But if you are like me, I had to quit my jobs both times I moved. Before I moved I looked for potentially jobs before I had moved. When I went to the US, I knew I wanted to work in a school and applications open for the new school year during the summer. As soon as my visa was approved and my flight was booked, I applied for jobs at some of the nearby schools. I had a telephone interview (over Skype) while I was still living in the UK and I had my in-person interview the day after I landed in the US.

When I came back to the UK, I also had a game plan for work.

You then may have a job you need to quit before you move! Make sure you look into how much notice you are required to give before you leave. I also had to make sure my accounts were still open to then be able to receive my final pay cheque.

Closing Accounts/cancelling payments

The list of accounts that needed to be closed was pretty important, especially when moving permanently away from the US to return to the UK. Make sure any subscriptions are cancelled or payment details can be changed. I had to close:

  • 2 bank accounts (regular account and business account)
  • 2 credit cards (one at my main bank and my American Airlines Mastercard)
  • My work pension (I was stung badly for withdrawing the money so ‘early’ but I didn’t want to have to try a chase it years down the line)
  • Health insurance
  • Car insurance
  • 2 PayPal accounts
  • Keysearch (blog subscription)
  • Phone plan (see below)

If you have/had a house, you may also have things like: internet, TV subscriptions, other insurances and more. Do you need to divert post? This is also something that you may need to look into.

Phone Plans

I have always been on rolling contracts for my phone plans. I cancelled the payments/plan before moving, but there was a slight crossover so the number was still live up until flight days. HOWEVER and a BIG HOWEVER, many online accounts are connected to a phone number for 2-factor authentication. Without having the number available, it can be a bit of a pain to gain access. So before I lost the number, I went into all the accounts I wanted/need to transfer and I used someone else’s number as backup (with their permission of course).

Alternatively, I also had a Pay-as-you-go UK sim as my US phone never worked outside of the country. I had to make sure I sent 1 message every 6 months to keep the number active.

online Accounts to be transferred

…so continuing on, here is the list of accounts where I had to make sure I would still be able to access them by changing the 2-factor authentication phone number. It also doesn’t help that I have a giant list of websites connected to my blogs. Down the line these then need to be updated again with the new number and new payment details (and tax details in some cases!).

  • Amazon
  • Apple ID
  • 3 email accounts
  • Wise (previously Transferwise)
  • Facebook and social media platforms (around 7 individual places)

(Blog sites)

  • WordPress
  • Hosting platform
  • Domain name host
  • Amazon Affiliates
  • Other affiliate platforms

The only one I forgot about and ended up being locked out of, was Uber, but I just created a new account in the end.

Flights

Once all the visa is sorted out, you can then think about how you are going to get to your new location. One of the easiest ways is flying. Keep in mind that one way tickets can often be more expensive than a return ticket. Then look into luggage allowances. How much are you able to take in the cabin? How many checked bags are you allowed? What are the weight limits? How much do additional checked bags cost? For my flight back to the UK, I cashed in my air miles and flew in business class (I just had to pay taxes). The luggage allowance was higher, but with the additional checked bags, my luggage ended up costing more than what I paid for the flight!

Packing/shipping

After you know what the luggage allowances are, you can then think about if you need to make plans on how to move your belongings from A to B.

I wrote a whole post about packing which you can find here: Moving Abroad Packing List: What You Need To Take Overseas

I opted for just suitcases but you may have to look into shipping container or shipping additional bags (using a service such as SendMyBag). When sending belongings unattended, the country may require you to fill in additional paperwork to avoid import taxes. I left it too late to be able to receive a TOR number from the UK so ended up just checking another bag. SendMyBag require you to apply for the TOR number before they will generate a shipping label, this whole process can take around a month.

If you need tips on how to pack and the best luggage for moving abroad, this post will help you out: 8 Handy Tips: How To Pack A Suitcase For Moving Overseas | Best Luggage

Medication

If you have prescriptions, it might be worth trying to get a bulk prescription in advance. This will tie you over until you are able to get to a doctors in your new location. Always travel with any paperwork that goes with a prescription. Some medications have different names but the ingredients can be cross checked with something that is the same but called something different.

Selling Items

If you don’t plan on taking all your belongs, what are you going to do with them? When I first moved abroad, I had the option to leave some of my things in storage in the UK. When I moved back from the US, I had to sell, give away or donate any items I wasn’t going to bring back with me. This can be a handy way to get a little bit of extra cash.

Money

When it comes to money, when I went to the US, I had access to a decent currency exchange so I took a chunk of money over in cash. When coming back to the UK, the easiest way was to use Wise (previously Transferwise). I’m a huge fan of Wise and have used it several times to transfer my money between the US and the UK. In my case, transfers would take around 3 days. You can use a mixture of card details and bank account details. Accounts may initially need to be verified before the first transfer, for me I just had to upload a photo of me holding the document I used as ID when setting up the account.

Once You Have Arrived

The list of things to do once you have arrived can be just as long, if not longer than the list of things to do before you leave. When I first left the UK, I did leave a bunch of my accounts etc open…I left my mum in charge of them! Again, there’s nothing regarding housing, as both times I moved in with people who already had everything set up.

Banks

When you have arrived, you may need to set up a bank account. Depending on where you are, you may need to have permanent resident status to be able to. I was required to have a Social Security Number. I was able to get a current account quite easily but it took me a little while before I was able to apply for a credit card because you need proof of jobs etc. My credit score started again from zero too.

Phone Plans

For me to get a phone plan in the US I had to wait for my Social Security Number which was a bit of a pain. However getting a Pay-as-you-go sim is always an option. I also had the problem where my UK iPhone wasn’t compatible with some of the US service providers. My phone was unlocked but the ‘technology’ didn’t work together, so I was restricted to certain networks or I had to buy a new phone. I found the phone plans to be extremely expensive in the US too, which was a shock coming from the UK where plans are quite reasonable.

Transferred online Account Details

Once I had new bank details and a phone number, I was then able to go back onto my accounts and set them up again so same as above:

  • Amazon
  • Apple ID
  • 3 email accounts
  • Wise (previously Transferwise)
  • Facebook and social media platforms (around 7 individual places)

(Blog sites)

  • WordPress
  • Hosting platform
  • Domain name host
  • Amazon Affiliates
  • Other affiliate platforms

As well as creating new accounts for the ones I couldn’t just change the details for:

  • 2 PayPal accounts
  • Blog subscription service

Insurances

We are lucky in the UK to have the NHS. New immigrants have to pay a fee during the application process which then gives them the same access. In the US I wasn’t even able to apply for health insurance until I had the Social Security Number which was a bit annoying. I didn’t realise I’d have to wait so long. Looking back I should have probably looked into some sort of expat insurance that could have covered me, until it was set up.

register with Doctor

I’m sure doctors operate differently all around the world. In the UK, most of the time you’ll have to register with a doctors surgery. In the US I only ever visited the drop-in clinic thing, just because it was easier and I didn’t have to register or anything.

Driving/Cars

When I moved to the USA, I had 30 days where I could drive on my UK licence. But after this time I was expected to then get an Iowa licence. Again I had to wait for my Social Security Number but they were able to use my temporary Green Card details in my passport to put me on the system. This meant that I had to take the US theory and practical driving test. It was easy peasy but still something that needed to be done. (Expat Life: Passing an American Driving Test)

With cars, comes buying one, insuring one and potentially needed things like car tax and MOT tests. When I returned to the UK, despite having been driving for over 13 years, insurance companies treated me like a brand new driver. The insurance cost me a fortune because I had lost/couldn’t transfer any sort of no claims bonus.

Work/ENROL for school

If you don’t start looking for jobs before you move, you may have to look for work when you arrive. For me this was the quickest way to try and help me to settle in. I met other people and it gave me something to do. My job was able to accept me using the temporary Green Card in my passport. But as soon as my official card arrived I then had to go to head office and get my details updated. It was all quite a painless process and I was lucky that moving from the UK to the USA there’s not much of a language barrier or anything like that.

Before getting my job though I did have to make sure other aspects were lined up, such as my bank account so I could get paid and I needed a car as my job was in the next town along.

Back in the UK, I decided to become self employed. So I then had to go through the process of registering with HMRC to get my tax numbers etc in preparation for paying tax on my income.

If you have kids, you may need to think about enrolling kids in a new school. This is a whole other situation. I don’t have children so this is something I can’t advise on.

Unpack

Of course once you arrive you’ll need to unpack. I didn’t hurry myself, for a while I lived out of suitcases and gradually unpacked when I had the time and energy! I just unpacked the things I needed first and just slowly made my way along. I also had to wait until I had some storage options. I just visited the local Walmart/supermarket and bought some cheap drawers etc (the house already had built in wardrobes).

expat Paperwork/Visas

While I was living abroad, I was only considered a permanent resident, I wasn’t a citizen and had no voting rights etc. As I was still a British citizen with a British passport, I decided to continue as a British overseas voter. I had to fill up an initial application form and I assigned my mum as my proxy voter, rather than worry about postal votes. This was a form I had to fill out every year.

Once I was granted my US visa, I only had a conditional status. After 2 years I had to apply to remove the conditions so I was officially ‘permanent’. I had to keep a track of when it was expiring and then go through an application process 90 days before the expiration date. They don’t tell you when to start the process, this is something you have to look into a calculate yourself. It took forever to renew so for a while I had problems trying to get back into the country using the paperwork they gave me.

Passports will most probably have different expiry dates to visas or visa photo cards (such as the Green Card), so keep an eye on everything!

Surrender Documents

When I left the US to move back to the UK, I had 6 months in which I had to surrender my Green Card. Once you move to another country with the intention of working and not returning, the Green Card is then void. I had to download a form online, fill it out and then mail it back. It took about 3 months for me to receive the letter to acknowledge that I had surrendered it.

I believe I also need to surrender my Iowa driving licence/ID, this is something I still haven’t got round to doing. I guess this is my reminder that I need to look into how to do it!

Tax

The thorn in my side. Tax. When you are a US permanent resident or citizen, you are expected to do an income tax return no matter where in the world you are. After coming back to the UK, I had to complete a US tax return, declaring everything I had earned while living in the UK, along with the amount of money I had in my UK bank accounts. I ended up hiring a tax advisor to do it for me and it cost me a FORTUNE. Some countries have tax treaties with others and because I didn’t know the ins and outs of expat taxes, I thought it would be better to get someone to do it for me.

The UK didn’t have the same requirement. When you are an employee in the UK all the taxes are just done through the work place. So when I first moved abroad, it was something that I didn’t need to worry about. It’s definitely important to check what the tax requirements are for your adopted country.

Final Words

Moving abroad get be very overwhelming when it comes to thinking about everything you need to do. For years I even had something I nicknamed ‘paperwork dreams’. I would literally wake up panicking in the middle of the night that I had forgotten to do something. It was horrendous! I found the best way to do things was to create a list of everything I needed to do. Work out the time frame in which I needed to do them, and then just work my way through. I’m not going to lie, there were mistakes that I made and things that I forgot about. It’s annoying because there’s no where that tells you want exactly you need to do! It’s just trial and error and sometimes you end up discovering something out last minute!

It’s helpful to be in expat Facebook groups for your chosen country. If you search for ‘Expats in X’ or even ‘Expats returning to X’ then you can ask questions or see what other people are saying. This way you may discover something that you’ve missed! I still can’t 100% say that I did everything right. For all I know there could have been something that I haven’t done and never even realised!

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Checklist For Moving Abroad

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